BHUBANESWAR: PIT looms in rain-hit districts of Odisha have fallen silent. Damp from a week of unrelenting showers that brought in floods and muddy still, it will take a month before the buzz resumes. Till that time, hands that weave magic on fabric will have to go jobless. Weavers in Odisha use two types of looms - pit and frame - of which - the former is widely used. As per the 4th All India Handloom Census, there are 30,752 pit looms in Odisha, a majority of the distribution being in Western Odisha and Kotpad (Koraput).
During heavy rains and flooding, frame looms can be shifted but that’s not the case with pit looms. Usually 5 to 6 inches deep and 3X3 ft wide, the loom is installed in a pit and needs two pedals to be operated. Weavers have to sit on the ground, legs suspended into the pit, to operate the pedals.“During flooding, pits that are not concrete bear the brunt. Weaving cannot start till water is drained out and loom is dry,” said Govardhan Panika, a master weaver of Kotpad, who also uses a pit loom. As rains continued for a week, many pits loom faced the problem this year. Local weavers put a total number of pit looms in Kotpad at 200. Not only were the loom pits inundated, yarn in many weavers’ households was also damaged by rains.
In Western Odisha, having the largest concentration of weavers and pit looms, those from Sonepur, Barpali (Bargarh), Balangir and other areas are waiting for the pits to dry out. “Water from Mahanadi did not enter our village but as rains continued for 8 to 10 days, the pits started soaking water. Though there has been no damage to our yarn and finished fabrics, the damp loom pits will take 15 days to dry completely and till then, there will be no work for us,” said Bhagabata Meher, a weaver of Tikirapada in Sonepur district. Meher is famous for his ‘Shri Ganeet’ saree. Sonepur is known worldwide for its Bandha Kala or tie and dye textile.
Officials of the Handlooms and Textiles department said the State government has two projects to address this problem. Weavers are supported for making a switch from pit to frame looms wherever possible. Second is to concrete the pit looms. Since 2013-14, 15,000 pit looms have been concreted. “At Sonepur, 5,000 pit looms have been concreted including 1,500 this year. Weavers have the option of seeking expertise for concreting the looms or doing it themselves,” said Deputy Director (Textiles), Sonepur, Shantanu Meher.